Pilates Equipment vs Weight Machines

I find people often ask me about Pilates Equipment vs Weight Machines.  Many think that when working out you have to choose between one or the other.  Some think that Pilates is only for flexibility, and Body Building is for strength & muscle tone.  Actually both machines and forms of exercise work on strength & tone and compliment each other.  It helps to understand the different types of muscles we have to know how they do this.

Basically we have deep muscles that support our spine and ‘protect’ our internal organs.  These are usually called stabilizing muscles or ‘core’ muscles.  Then we have muscles that let us walk, run, jump, lift etc.  The are usually called mobilizing muscles, they are closer to the surface of the skin and are the muscles you tend to see on someone who has ‘built’ their muscles.  The other important little fact is that the mobilizing muscles can do the work of the core muscles, if the core muscles are too weak or spasmed to function – it is just that then they can’t move you as well without getting injured.

Initial designs for both types of equipment started in the early  to mid 1900s.  Starting with Smith Machines in the 1950‘s – weight machines are designed to isolate and strengthen specific muscle the mobilizing muscles.   These muscles are the most visible on the body, the gleuts, quads, hamstrings, biceps, pectorals, rectus abdominus (the six pack muscles) and lats to name a few.  Weight machines are a great way to build strength in a specific area and to build muscular bulk.  To performs acts of strength one needs strong mobilizing muscles.  But to sustain acts of strength one needs to have strong core muscles that allow for stabilization of the body and focused used of each muscle

In England, during WW1, Joseph Pilates began developing equipment to help rehabilitate injured soldiers.  These machines are designed to isolate and strengthen the deep stabilizing muscles of the body.  Unless you are trained in anatomy most of these muscles you would never have heard of.  They are the muscles that form the trunk of the body, stabilize the spine and form the space where the organs reside.  As mentioned above these core muscles allow one to sustain acts of strength over time.  Since these are the muscles that protect the organs of the body, if they aren’t working or strong enough for an activity the muscles above will add that to the work they do.

From this you might be able to imagine both why Pilates and Weight Lifting compliment each other and how one could easily be injured while Body Building if the core muscles are ignored.  So it is not Pilates Equipment VS Weight Machines, but Pilates Equipment with Weight Machines and weights!

In any type of athletic or everyday activity we favor our stronger muscles.  To strengthen the weaker ones, they need to be isolated so they can do their own work.  This is extremely hard to do with out equipment.

If you find that you spend lots of time working on your abs but they just round outward  – then you need to strengthen the deeper stabilizing abs that hold that six pack in and taut.  Pilates equipment will give you the best results.  If you do lots of squats and lat work but find that your back always hurts – you need to strengthen your core muscles.  Again Pilates Equipment will give you the best results.

If you have a strong core and feel like you don’t have enough muscle tone – then you need to add some weight lifting into your regimin.